This summer started out a bummer--I didn’t have a good job, my future was really uncertain and I spent more time worrying than enjoying myself. Eventually things figured themselves out, as they’re wont to do and I started a new job where I’ve met some pretty cool people. Hanging out with them has reminded me of how good it is to just have fun and be open to dancing, whether your drunk or not. That sort of attitude has snuck its way into my summer playlist which, in my opinion, is full of BANGERZ and that I’m pretty much listening to till there’s snow on the ground. One of my faves on here is “Heart to Break” by Kim Petras which is really just the bop of the summer. One thing I’m really embracing this summer is the idea of risking delight. I’m always so cautious, so “practical” and I let that hold me back in a lot of ways. It means a lot of missed experience and a lot of unnecessary regret. This summer, and the rest of this year, is about being open to experience even if it breaks me, even if it makes me cry. With this playlist I’m officially crowning this summer as the summer of dancing your ass off and having one or six martinis. We all deserve it.
Here's the second part of my New York diary! I realize while editing my 100s of pics, that I started taking less pictures as the week went on and I got more tired and was trying to focus on just like experiencing things. But I did get some good pics and I had a lot of fun.
Saturday was a really weird day. We left the house a little later than usual, but I had been awake forever and felt really out of it. We didn't really have buying appointments on this day because we went to Capsule and ManxWoman which are pretty big "trade" shows. I definitely preferred visiting smaller showrooms that were more intimate over the trade shows. I did spot Rachel Antonoff at Capsule though, which literally made my day!
We were meant to go to Jack's Wife Freda for brunch, not realizing that NY brunch lines are HELLA LONG. It was an hour and half wait, in the rain, so we went searching for other options. We ended up at The Egg Shop which I honestly think was meant to be because the food was amazing and I fell in love with cold brew there, so it was a win-win.
A Day in Brooklyn〰Sunday
Sunday was pretty great, and definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I met up with my best friend from middle school and we headed to the Brooklyn Museum to see their small Basquiat exhibition. And we were in Brooklyn! It was great, even though the neighbourhood wasn't super vibing on a sleepy Sunday but I felt so comfortable and so excited, it was great!
I was definitely a tourist at Grand Central because GOSSIP GIRL PEOPLE!
The Brooklyn Museum was honestly a treasure! From Judy Chicago's Dinner Party to their singular Basquiat painting, the exhibitions felt really unique and inspiring. I'd have to say that my favourite exhibition was Infinite Blue which took up most of the first floor and focused on all these variations of blue. There were cool installations, like this weird underwater video that I wanted to watch forever. And its open all year, so people can still experience its magic.
We had brunch at Shane's, which I'm pretty sure is a black-owned restaurant which was really exciting for me. There's not a lot of unique, special black spaces in my current city, and so there was something really comforting being surrounded by black people who were just enjoying their Sunday brunch. I had their chicken and waffles, which was tasty and homey.
We spent the rest of the day just hanging around uptown--going to Barnes and Nobles and brainstorming in a Starbucks. It was just a nice, quiet day--a dream Sunday tbh.
Monday was our last official day, and we didn't really have too many appointments, which gave us a chance to explore. Honestly, we went to some of the best places this day, including Coming Soon NYC and Totokaelo. This was the day that I felt the most like I belonged in New York, and not like I was just floating around with my eyes wide at everything. It was pretty great.
Once we were done with appointments we went to Ruby's Cafe, which is Australian cuisine and was really cozy. Even better, as we were finishing up I saw that FREAKING SUBRINA HEYNIK WAS THERE! I love her vintage store and her Instagram even more, not just for her aesthetics but also because of how much she speaks to what she believes in and never excuses herself from talking about important issues. I said hello to her as we were leaving, we hugged and we both almost cried. It was honestly one of the best ways to end the trip.
I finally got to visit the Glossier Showroom which has been my dream since they first launched. To be honest, as beautiful as it was, the experience wasn't as special or exciting as I had built it up to be in my mind. Probably because it was a dreary Monday afternoon, and there wasn't much going on. I was too distracted to really try a lot of different products as well so there was that. Overall, I am glad I got a chance to go.
We spent the rest of our evening at some weird Amazon summer event, where I got pretty drunk, danced to some major bops and got really nostalgic about leaving the next day.
Even months later, I still think about this trip often and how it confirmed that my dreams could be a reality. I'd wanted to go to New York for so long and I really built it up in my brain, and I was afraid it would disappoint. However, I felt so comfortable there and leaving was especially hard. But I'm definitely going back!
Cold brew is one of those hyped up things that I took my sweet time paying attention to. When I worked at Starbucks, I remember everyone getting really excited for cold brew season but hating it from the very first sip. And I especially hated it because all the people who ordered it were usually really pretentious. But now I'm the pretentious,only-drinks-cold-brew person and I'm fine with it. It all started with my trip to The Egg Shop when I was in New York. It was late on a Saturday, I was tired and we still had appointments to go to. I just needed something to revitalize me. So I ordered an iced coffee, and was instead presented with a cold brew that was so good from the first gulp I couldn't stop talking about for the rest of the day. I spent the last few days of the trip trawling the fridges at Whole Foods looking for the best bottles and cans, and drank cold brew basically every day.
When I got back home, I couldn't find cold brew anywhere (it was still winter) and the options at my grocery store didn't look great. But now the sun is out, cafés are serving cold brew with abandon, and I'm guzzling down a glass a day. It's probably the only thing that keeps me functioning past noon. To save on costs, I've been purchasing a random one from my local grocery store, but it just doesn't compare to any I had in New York. For now, I'll make do. But I'm still on the hunt.
I've wanted to go to New York ever since I was 11 years old and dreamed of being a writer and dating a Dan Humphrey type. The trip was made the more better because I went with the New Classics team and got to visit a lot of cool showrooms and get a firsthand look into what buyers do and a real behind the scenes look into the fashion industry.
I had the best experience in New York. Every moment there was something new and I've never really felt so comfortable in a place. I adapted pretty quickly; the first day I could barely stand up on the subway and by the end of the trip, I was navigating the system like a young pro.
We arrived at LaGuardia just around sunset which made everything feel romantic and as if it was destined. We headed into the city, went to pick up the keys for our AirBNB, dropped our stuff off and headed to Brooklyn. We'd all ordered a few things to a friend's place there, so we went to grab dinner and then get our hands on our purchases!! I'm not sure where we had dinner but it was a really random place, and the food wasn't all that good.
We dove into appointments right away, but not before making a morning stop at Cha Cha Matcha. I see the cafe on Instagram all the time and wanted to discover the hype and tbqh, it's the real deal. From the aesthetics to the product, it's all pretty amazing. AND it's easy to pretend that you're just taking a break from working at one of the very cool places around the neighbourhood.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh Showroom
After appointments with Suzanne Rae and Lauren Manoogian, we headed to Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a quick little lunch. It was pretty busy and we ended up sharing a table with a random guy. The food we had was good but I don't think I would go back, or I would go at a less busy time and order a lot more stuff. If you're in a rush though, definitely get their fried dumplings. Delicious!
Before we headed to our next showroom, me and Darleen got our auras taken at Crystal Magic in Chinatown which was honestly a beautiful experience. It just solidified a lot for me and I treasure it a lot. I wish I lived in New York because I would go like once a month if I could.
After a long and fast-paced first day we headed back to our AirBNB, making a stop for dinner at Lucien. I was desperate to try their signature cocktails but unfortunately I'm still a year underage. I didn't take too many pictures there because the lighting wasn't great and our table got into a pretty heated conversation so I got quickly distracted. But the food + atmosphere was amazing.
One of my highlights of Thursday was getting to visit Mulberry Iconic Magazines which I swear had every mag title I had ever heard of and more. I had to show some restraint, as it was the beginning of the trip, but you can bet I got my hands on some fantastic titles--including the Timothée Chalamet issue of V-MAN.
Thursday was even more hectic than Wednesday, as we went from appointment to appointment. We scarfed down lunch at Ivan Ramen in between two showrooms. I'm not like a major ramen fan by all means, but it was good although a bit salty. The best part of our appointments on Thursday? Getting to meet Yana of @gelcream (which I'm a big fan of) and Valerie Quant of LoQ, who also happens to be a good friend of Rachel Nguyen.
Once all of our appointments were down, we stopped at a Van Leeuwen's for a treat, and I had THE BEST (vegan) ice-cream I have ever had. We had dinner at Westville, where I realized how much I loved burgers because that was all I wanted.
Friday was a bit of a weird day because we didn't really do much and I felt so tired my whole body was locked up. It was that feeling when you go, go, go and all of a sudden you stop and your body is like *shutdown*. Friday was our day to fully explore but we had a business lunch at Macy's Stella 34 Trattoria, and that ended up being longer than expected but was a very educational experience.
After lunch we head to The Met, which I could not hold in my excitement about. We walked through Central Park to get there and I couldn't help but feel Blair Waldorf/Dorota vibes as we did. And then of course, THE MET which is just as amazing and beautiful a you would expect. Since we didn't really have the whole day to explore, I focused on seeing the temporary exhibitions I wanted to see, specifically the David Hockney one and the William Eggleston one.
Our last stop of the evening was at The Strand which has been like a dream for me for so long. And it was honestly the most revitalizing experience. I love bookstores and so there was nothing better than trolling through this iconic spot. Definitely one of the best parts of the whole trip. We didn't do much for dinner--the hot bar at Whole Foods = everything--and I just laid on the couch and watched Gossip Girl. A perfect end to the week.
The first few days were pretty jam-packed but it pretty much slowed down from then on. The rest of the diary is coming next week, so keep an eye out for that!
March didn't get off to a great start. The underwater feeling I had felt through most of February still lingered in the first weeks of March. Paired with New York withdrawal symptoms and getting sick, I spent a lot of march feeling worthless and gross. And then school. It's so boring to complain about how shit school can be AND YET! I'm just trying to stay positive but sometimes I find it hard to fight the part of me that just wants to watch Fargo all the time and take 101 baths. However, the past couple of weeks have been a lot better. I'm working to let some things go, vent when I want to (even if it seems petty), and just gripping onto every moment of joy. The other day, I spent the morning listening to the Hairspray soundtrack and dancing my little ass off. I felt amazing pretty much all day. I'm seeing friends and accepting that sometimes I need people to re-energize. That's ok. I'm excited about it. It means I get to go see Ladybird and then obsess about it with other people in real time.
I found myself reading a lot more this month--apart from taking a break from Instagram, I knew that reading for fun had been so beneficial for my mental health in the past couple of months, so I made a conscious effort to do it. That meant sacrificing readings I had to do for class (sorry Ann Radcliffe) but I read some amazing things. My two favourite books I read this month were The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine. Out of all four and a half books I read, they're the two that I was immediately captured by and they're the ones that I devoured the fastest. Both authors have their own unique way of capturing humanity--it's intimacies, its let downs, its mistakes, its richness.
I'm always concerned with the difficulty of defining home, especially when the only place I've lived long enough to call home is the last place that I feel 100% at home. So I loved Mitchell Kuga's brilliant piece for Shondaland called "Coming Home", in which he talks about the way we perceive home and the myths we create about it.While Kuga ended up finding home in NYC, this piece reminded me that home doesn't have to be a physical location; it can be a state-of-mind.
Ashley C. Ford has managed to touch a special place in my heart and so everytime I read something she wrote, whether it be a tweet or something longer, I'm deeply moved. She recently wrote a piece for Cup of Jo, about maintaining your relationship with your parents when your live your life in a way that's drastically different from theirs. My favourite part is this reassuring text she sent to her friend who was worrying that she wasn't properly preparing her son for the life ahead of him: "You don’t have to be the best middle-class mother to your middle-class children. You only have to be their truest home. Maybe they’ll experience the world much differently than you did, but they will always know where home is.”
I Think About This A Lot: Mark Cuban Saying 'Right' on Shark Tank. There's a girl in my political science class who ends so many of her sentences in "right" I can't help but twitch every time she says it. And although I've never seen Shark Tank there was something very satisfying about this piece from The Cut.
On My Block (Netflix)
In a move that was detrimental to both my school work and my plan to read more often, I started watching On My Block and maybe finished the whole series in 24 hours (I definitely did). The show is so funny and the characters are all lovable, even the one called Spooky. Clear your schedule for this one--you won't want to stop watching.
Black Girl in Om
I listen to podcasts based on mood, which means I'm always on the lookout for something new that will match my ever changing mood. I started listening to BGIO at the recommendation of my sister, after having one too many crises about work and THE FUTURE. Start with their most recent interview with Yaminah Mayo and then head to Season One to experience the full magic.
I'm not sure why I fell in love with this song but there were days I listened to it about three times and never got sick of it, so obviously it's the bop that we all need.
What were you loving this month? Is there anything you detested?
I think of all my monthly playlists, this one's playlist has been the one that has truly captured how I felt throughout the month. It's actually hard to listen to the songs that I added at the start of the month because I feel so different now. I went from feeling moody as fuck, listening to Frank Ocean and the Shangri-Las all the time and feeling weary about life to listening to "New Slaves" several times a day and just being like FUCK YOU AND YOUR HAMPTON HOUSE. I never really have a grand motive for making monthly playlists, but this month I realized how well they come to capture my mood every month. They've accidentally become as much of an outlet as my journal is. Every playlist I've made feels like a reminder of who I used to be, how I've grown and who I'll always be.
Two weeks ago, after listening to a podcast with Tavi Gevinson, I immediately logged out of my Instagram. This felt like a fairly radical act because like most people my age, I’m addicted to Instagram. But, just like a lot of people, it was starting to drag me down. I noticed that I was spending an insane amount of time on it, using it as a source of inspiration but not actually making anything. I was starting to feel every negative emotion that has been associated with Instagram use--jealousy, incompetency, hopelessness. But at the same time, Instagram also made me feel good and feel connected. My city can sometimes feel like the most suffocating small town ever, so when I needed to be reminded that there was something much bigger than what I was feeling, Instagram was a great reminder that there were people out there making the art I wanted to see, talking about the things I wanted to talk about, etc. I'm sure there's a study about how that's actually a negative effect but I don't care. Instagram made me feel good. Until it didn't. I needed to take a break. Pretty much all the testimonials from social media detoxes are extremely positive: "I read more! I actually read the news! I felt whole!". I had a lot of expectations.
At first I just wanted to see how long I could spend logged out before I broke down and went back to my scrolling ways. I was further challenged--I couldn't just delete the app from my phone (out of sight, out of mind) because I had to keep maintaining an Instagram account for my internship. Thankfully, the account doesn't follow anyone but our company, so I was less tempted to scroll through Stories. The first few days were hard. I realized how bad my addiction was when I would pick up my phone, open the app and scroll, JUST FOR THE SATISFACTION. That was straight up scary. When I realized that, I knew I had to take a full on break. I deleted the app from my phone. That lasted about three days before I downloaded it again because I had to post a picture for a lil' opportunity I had with Lil' Shop Vintage. Then I deleted it again. The app is back on my phone because of my internship, but I've been two weeks without regular Instagram activity, which for me is MAJOR. I'm no longer spending 20 mins of my waking moments desperately scrolling through last night's InstaStories.
What I Learnt
I had hoped that after a while, I would be like, WHATEVER I’M OVER INSTAGRAM, I'M FREE OF SOCIETAL CONSTRAINTS! I also had half hoped that I would be able to call bullshit on social media detoxes and go back to my endless scrolling and refreshing without any feelings of guilt. But neither of those things happened. I ended up somewhere squarely in the middle. Being logged out of Instagram has been great--I've been able to concentrate when I'm working, I have been able to read more, and I've had less time to compare myself to other people, instead using that energy to gas myself up. At the same time, I miss some of the accounts that I follow and I find myself looking for photos or quotes I had saved on Instagram.
I don't think Instagram is a wholly bad thing (feel free to disagree) but I do think that I would benefit from a lot more time off of it. My internship will soon come to a close and it won't be necessary for me to have the app on my phone anymore. There's a project that I want to work on this summer, and I want to see what I'm capable of without Instagram. Who knows what will happen but I'm willing to give it a try. I know now that I'm not powerless against social media. And that's really the lesson I needed to learn.
I bought this coat from Maganda Pa a few months ago when I was deep in an Instagram shopping hole but I wore it for the first time only a few weeks ago. I've thought about wearing it a few times but I was nervous that it was too bold and I would stand out too much. I love color but often refrain from wearing too much of it. Although I've recently realized that wearing color makes me feel comfortable and confident, so I'm invested in inserting more of it into my wardrobe.
I wore this outfit to school which was a pretty big deal for me because I mostly like to blend into the background when it comes to campus life. Surprisingly, once I got to campus I was filled with more confidence than nervosity.
Earrings: Open House Projects
I've been wanting these earrings for a while but couldn't bring myself to make the purchase. I borrowed them from New Classics for these photos but now I'm definitely ready to get a pair of my own. Too bad I'm on a shopping ban...
Photos were taken by (my wonderful boss) Alyssa Lau
Body positivity. Body confidence. Love your body. These days, messages like these are hard to avoid. In the past few months, it’s become extremely popular to see Instagram posts in which people compare the differences in their body in a posed photo and when it’s relaxed. There are so many messages for us to love our bodies, although these are often followed by images of thin and toned bodies and ads (upon ads) that all promise you a "better" body in as little as 14 days. The conflicting nature of these messages make the cry for body positivity/confidence feel artificial.
I’ve always been concerned about the size and shape of my body. As a kid, I was always aware that I was bigger than most of my friends, who were small and quiet and cute. I, in comparison, was big and boisterous, and often felt like Princess Fiona when she first hugs her parents in her ogre form. Despite this awareness, I still wasn't bothered much. I was pretty confident and happy as a kid. I was smart and sociable, and the shape and size of my body didn't define me.
In middle school, that started to change. I started to binge eat to combat feelings of loneliness or inadequacy. I didn’t have words to describe what I was feeling but I knew that if I felt horrible, scarfing down a container of cookies and cream ice cream and a pack of powdered donuts was a momentary remedy. I gained a lot of weight, which made me more insecure, especially when people in my life would bring attention to it--my doctor, my family, my best friend. I continued to feel lonely, angry, and insecure. I continued to binge.
When my family moved to Trinidad when I was in the seventh grade, I lost a lot of weight. The unwanted move, the sudden change of circumstance, combined with intensified feelings of sadness, led me to stop eating. Matched with the magic of puberty, all my fat disappeared and i became “shapely”. People began to comment on how much weight I had lost and how good I looked. But I still didn't feel good. Until that moment, I had always associated slimness with happiness and confidence, so it was a bit of wakeup call to realize that my now loose clothes didn’t make me feel any better about myself. Now I worried about keeping off the weight, hungry for compliments so as to validate myself.
Why did it matter if I was fat or skinny, chubby or toned? Why was I, at 12 years old, already evaluating my worth based on the size of my thighs and the roundness of my face? In all the time I’ve been alive, society has always promoted thinness. It has humiliated and shamed people for not fitting certain body standards. Even in our age of body positivity and confidence, this narrative still persists. And while in recent years, there has been a greater acceptance of women with larger bodies, there’s still a lot of work to do before there is an actual change in the way we see and talk about bodies. It feels like there's little room in the body positivity conversation to talk about the complexities of “loving your body”. I wish we talked more about how not loving your body doesn't mean not loving yourself.
I do not love my body. Every time I look in the mirror and tell myself that I love my thighs or that I love my belly, I feel ridiculous. But I also don’t hate my body. There are some days where I wish it was smaller and more toned. Those moments pass.
A body is just a physical vessel. We exist in them, but they do not define us. My body doesn’t say anything about who I am, except maybe that I really like donuts (like REALLY LIKE). My body doesn’t determine my worth, and I don’t need to love it. I think that's okay.
When I think about the word ritual, I think of magic. Of manifesting a desire, of making space in my life for a myriad of possibilities. So when it comes to my skincare routine, I'm less concerned about how well the products are doing and more concerned with how using them makes me feel. Am I satisfied? Do I feel like I could be a glowing beast worthy of Kira Kira? My current skincare routine is making me feel so confident that the only makeup I've been wearing lately is a flick of liquid liner, some mascara and seven seconds worth of Boy Brow. Here's the lineup...
Toner/Essence. I love the Mamonde Rose Water Toner and Missha's First Treatment Essence. They both leave my skin feeling moisturized and prepped for the rest of my routine. Both are Korean brands, so they're a little harder to get but they're completely worth it.
Serum(s). I'm really bad at taking my daily vitamins and it never seems to make a difference, but with serums, it's a whole different ball game. I've tried a bunch in the past, but I found the game changer last September when I started using Drunk Elephant's C-Firma Daily Serum. It's the second Vitamin C serum I've tried and it's worked amazingly. I actually see a difference in my skin when I use it and when I don't. I use Sunday Riley's U.F.O. Clarifying Oil at night, and it's amazing for fresh breakouts.
Moisturizer. If there's anything in my routine I'm really picky about, it's moisturizer. I once had a bad reaction to a Nivea face cream and since then I've been super careful about my moisturizer, avoiding thick creams. However, I have recently fallen in love with Glossier's Priming Moisturizer Rich, which gives me tonnes of moisture without making me face feel like it's being smothered. Honorable mentions go to Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream and Laneige Water Bank Moisture Cream.
Eye Cream. I have a love/hate relationship with eye cream. On one hand, the dark bags under my eyes say I desperately need them but on the other hand, my experience with them hasn't been exactly revolutionary. So far, most of the eye creams that I've found to be somewhat successful are mostly good for hydration and not much else. None have reduced the darkness or depth of my under-eye bags, so I don't feel the need to invest that much into it. The best one for hydration is Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado.
Sunscreen. I honestly hate sunscreen, especially on my face, but the EltaMD UV Daily is the best one I've tried and I don't want to try any others, because I know it works.
What products do you use? Do you think investing in skincare is a total sham? Or are you slowly working your way through Creme de La Mer? Let me know!
When it came to planning my 20th birthday, I knew I wanted to do something special. My family didn't celebrate birthdays as a kid, so I've only had a few actual celebrations. But I love birthdays and I think you should always have fun on your birthday, no matter what. If you don't go all out, did the birthday really happen?
This year, I decided that I was over club nights or sit down dinners. I wanted to do something that I had never done before and I to do it on my own. Travelling particularly stood out to me because I'm always looking for an escape from my sleepy city and I had never really been on vacation before.
But once I had decided to travel I didn't know where to go. Should I go to New York, where I had dreamed of going ever since I picked up my first Gossip Girl book? Or L.A, where the sun's always shining and the green juice is abundant? None of those felt right. And then I landed on it. Paris. Paris. The City of Lights. Of art and food and culture. What better way to start my twenties?
I was really nervous about going to Paris. There were so many mixed reviews and I hadn't been in a big city in a long time, so I thought I would get overwhelmed really quickly. But all my worries weren't necessary. After only being there for two days, I felt at home, despite my inability to speak French well and the fact that I depended on Google Maps a lot. But I never felt panicked or scared.
Originally I had planned to go on my own, but my older sisters ended up joining me on the trip, which I'm pretty grateful for. I think I would have been mostly fine on my own but having them there made the trip even more special.
The Dior Exhibit at Le Musée des Arts Decoratifs
All that Dior! I wasn't expecting to be so swept away by this exhibition but it was so beautiful. The history of Dior is so rich and varied, and it was such a special treat to experience it.
A cute cafe spot near our hotel, Republique of Coffee is a popular Paris spot to get freshly pressed juices and acai bowls. I got a mango juice that was truly magical.
Le Musée d'Orsay
Claus Paris. Went here for my birthday breakfast and ate so much I could barely get up when I was done. It was raining that day and it's so cozy and cute I felt like I was in a film.
Mon Coco. This was a popular bistro and cocktail bar near our hotel that we went into by chance. It was the only place we went to twice and both times the staff was super friendly, and the food was amazing.
Cocoricco. Another accidental find. We got on the wrong bus and missed a lunch reservation, so decided to walk back to the Louvre. We randomly chose this place and were lucky to get the last seats during a lunch rush. Our waiter was gorgeous, the food was delicious and I was happy to have (accidentally) missed our original reservation.
Merci. A popular department store (and tourist stop), Merci is full of everything from cute and simple homewares to contemporary designer brands. They also have a café and canteen, both of which we loved.
The Frankie Shop. This cute little shop is exactly the kind of boutique all the cool Instagram chicks go to. They have a NYC location but the Paris location will always be special to me because I found the best pair of pants there, and I swear it was fate.
Le Labo. The staff here was really friendly and eager to talk about the various perfumes. I convinced my sister to get me Vanille 44 (the Paris scent) for my birthday and every time I wear it, I feel exceptionally Parisian.
Shakespeare and Company. It took us almost two hours and lots of walking to find this iconic bookstore but it was worth the effort. I usually happy to be a bookstore but I couldn't temper my excitement at being here. Of course I had to buy some books, if only to get the S&Co stamp in them.
If there's one thing I learnt from this trip is that as much as you can plan, sometimes the best things are found spontaneously. Paris is a pretty walkable city--but you've got to wear comfortable shoes--and is best discovered on foot. My favourite moments were genuinely just walking the streets.
There's still so much discover and I can't wait to get back.
What is success? These days it seems like there’s an overflow of articles, books, podcasts, etc. that are all trying to give us some definition of success. Although it can be inspiring, it can quickly get overwhelming, especially when no one definition feels right.
Late last year, I had my biggest struggle with success. I had made it my goal to be the most well-rounded student you’ve ever seen. I was going to raise my GPA, have an internship and do more creative work. And on top of that, I was going to read more books for fun. I knew trying to balance all of that was going to be tough but I believed that hustling was the key to success and so it would all be worth it in the end.
So I worked hard at it. I studied everyday, making sure I was doing my readings and practicing my French. I went to my internship each week and made sure that I was working on my projects whenever I had a free moment. At the same time, I was managing and co-editing a blog, as well as working at my part-time job on the weekends. At first, I was thrilled with all the work I was doing. Yes, I thought, this is what successful women do! I thought that if I could handle my immense workload, then I would be proving something. To the people who thought I was lackadaisical and unserious. To my future bosses. To myself.
By mid-October I was burnt out and unhappy. I started panicking when things would go wrong and I felt like nothing was in control. I kept on working but I wasn't sure what for. To top it all off, I didn’t feel proud about anything I had achieved. Not about my grades, my internship, my work. Nothing. I didn’t feel like a success, I felt like a failure.
I'll be honest, this is easier said than done. It's easy to say that you don't care about how much money you have or how well your business is doing when you have achieved "conventional" success. When you're just a person working hard to get something published or bring an idea into fruition, it's hard to look at your life and feel like you've been successful. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Having a big idea about success is not a bad thing. In fact, it's important to keeping us motivated. On the other hand, it's important that we celebrate the smaller things that contribute to our being able to pursue the big ideal of success. Like finishing a draft, no matter how messy it may feel. Or having a difficult conversation with a friend. Or finally going to yoga class after months of putting it off. These are all challenges that we overcome and that's what success is about. Overcoming challenges. Or maybe it's not. That's up to each of us.
It took a lot for me to come to the point where I realized I had to evaluate my relationship with success. I had to think about why I had defined success the way I had for so long and why I wasn't satisfied by it. I had to tap into some darker, uglier parts of myself that I often try to talk away. And it's not like I've found the answers in the process. In fact, I'm still trying to figure it out. I know it's a process. I don't feel like a success, but I do feel successful.
I fell in love with fashion at the age of twelve. Before then, my main interest had been books and I took all my style cues from the popular soccer kids that I was so desperate to be best friends with. Discovering fashion wasn’t just about discovering a whole new world, but discovering a whole new part of myself. Day upon day I perused my sister’s fashion magazines, endlessly talked about trends with my best friend, and tried in whatever way possible to emulate the people I now looked up to. My love affair with fashion is what helped me survive the brutalities of early pubescence and crafted me into the person I am today.
When I fell in love with fashion, I knew of four black models. Naomi Campbell, Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls. I didn’t know of any black fashion writers, designers or magazine editors. At the time, the lack of representation in the industry wasn’t something on my radar. I was just happy to see one or two black models in the latest issue of Teen Vogue.
These days, my relationship with representation is very different. I think there were two things that really changed the game for me. One was realizing that in the mass of influencers that I followed and admired, very few of them were black women. I knew that there were more black bloggers, but I wasn’t seeing them on must-follow lists. I’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly one for trolling through my Instagram ‘Explore’ page, so I depend on magazines, blogs and other Instagram accounts to discover new people. Unfortunately, a lot of my sources were dominated by whiteness. After realizing that there was a severe lack of black women on my feed, I made it my mission to rectify the situation. And it wasn’t a challenge at all. When I started looking in the right places, the options for inspiration were endless.
The second thing that happened was that I read Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. It doesn’t need to be said but reading any Audre Lorde is life-changing, and reading Zami was like an epiphany. Up until that point, I had never read a book in which I felt seen. It wasn’t just about relating to Audre--I felt a deep connection with her and her words. I saw parts of myself in her and I felt that those parts were understood. I’d never experienced that feeling before.
The combination of reading the book and following more black women on the Internet made me feel like I was a part of a community. I hadn’t realized how displaced I felt within the whole fashion/influencer community, until I found a place where I felt like I belonged.
Last week, blogger Valerie Eguavoen of On A Curve, called out fashion brand Revolve for the lack of women of color, specifically black women, in their influencer groups. In calling out the brand, Valerie shed light on a conversation that black women have been having for years. Across industries, black women are undervalued, especially in the fashion industry which likes appropriating black culture but isn’t as open to actually supporting black women. And although diversity in fashion has been championed in recent years, the attempts have felt weak. Valerie’s callout of Revolve demonstrated that. Responses to her claims clearly showed how little people value black women, with many responding that maybe the reason that there weren’t any black bloggers that were popular enough to get influencer status. That idea is completely ridiculous and further undermines the work that black women do to gain even half of the amount of success that their white counterparts experience.
Seeing black women working in fashion, whether it’s as writers, influencers, photographers, etc. is inspirational. It’s an affirmation of where hard work can take you. It’s also an encouragement--if I was being completely honest, there are many times I’ve questioned if I would be able to have a career in the fashion industry because of the prevalence (and preference) of whiteness. But when I see writers and editors like Marjon Carlos or Chioma Nnadi, or bloggers like Yaminah Mayo, I see women who pushed past those ideas to get what they wanted. Women who have used the spaces they inhabit to fuel discussions around blackness.
For me, seeing black women working in fashion--successfully, visibly--makes me feel like my dreams and goals are possible. Black women have shaped culture for centuries and their stories are rich and valuable. They've done so well in crafting out spaces for themselves, but it's time for them to be given space on the mainstage. It's time for their voices to be magnified.
If you looking for more black influencers and bloggers, Valerie started an Instagram page, @youbelongnow that spotlights black influencers and bloggers from all areas of the ‘net. I’ve followed quite a few people already!
Today is my 20th birthday and if things have gone my way, I am currently trawling the streets of Paris, dressed to the nines, a little tipsy, with a shit eating grin plastered on my face.
My teens saw some of the hardest moments of my life--on top of the usual teen angst bullshit, there was also a lot of family bullshit to deal with. There was getting my first job, quitting my first job, and getting fired for the first time. I made lots of friends, I lost just as many and passionately disliked some of my closest friends. Through it all, I made a bunch of mistakes, did lots of things I regret but that I'm wiser for.
In honor of saying goodbye to my teens (Sayonara! Adios! Á bientôt! I won't miss you!), I put together a list of things that I've learnt in the past 7 years.
You can never change yourself to please others
I spent all of high school trying to make myself likable to people who really didn't like me. Me suppressing parts of my personality never curried me any favor and it didn't make me happy. I wish I had focused on doing my own thing and working on being a good person.
It's easier for people to undermine you if you undermine yourself
In my last year of high school, I directed a play for a few months and faced a lot of criticism from fellow student directors and their casts. Even worse, people often shared their criticisms with my actors which undermined my authority. Although I knew it came from a place of spite, I couldn't help but take their criticisms to heart and often felt like a phony. Reflecting on that experience, I realize that you can't control people's perceptions of you, you can't stop them from making hurtful comments, but you can control the way you react to it. That doesn't mean it won't hurt, but that it's up to you to make sure that it doesn't get in the way of achieving your goals and celebrating your successes.
You're true friends will be your greatest supporters
I had a lot of conversations with myself over the past year about why I felt so uncertain about continuing certain friendships. I eventually realized that it was because those friendships were the ones that put me down, that always made me feel like I was failing in someway. These were friendships in which I felt I had to constantly prove myself. At first I thought I was being too sensitive but soon realized that in comparison I had friends who were really supportive, who cared about me and never patronized me. Those were the friends I always left a conversation with feeling refreshed and happy. When life is tumultuous all on its own, it's important that your friends are a source of comfort and support, not the source of your problems.
Go to the party to get drunk and dance--not to get the boy
I wasted a lot of energy and emotions trying to create romantic entanglements at parties and attempting to kiss boys that would barely look at me. I started having so much more fun when I stopped thinking about that and just danced, even if I was the only one dancing.
Stay in your lane
Getting involved in other people's drama can seem like a lot of fun in the moment. Sometimes, it can be a little fun. But most of the time, getting involved in other people's business will never work out in your favor, it will only make them dislike you. I wish I had stayed out of the drama, if only to save myself a few tears.
No matter the lessons you learn and the work you put in, things will still go wrong
It's really appealing to think that once you become more aware and knowledgeable, you'll be able to control things to work in your favor. You think that you'll be able to shape the way your sadness feels. You think that by making a plan you're guaranteed that everything will go as planned. Sadly, that's never the case. And I think accepting that makes it easier to tackle the challenges that come your way.
What lessons did you learn in your teens? What lessons are you learning in your twenties?